I remember where I was when I received the call: at my dining table working on my laptop. My two teenagers were sitting on our couch fiddling on their phone… the TV blasting in the background.
It was a typical summer day during COVID. The city remained pretty shut down, we were still freaked out about being close to strangers, wearing masks and washing our hands a million times per day.
Just a month or so prior one of my business mentors forwarded me an email. QVC (yea, QVC!!), HSN and their parent company, The Qurate Retail Group were looking for Black owned businesses to spotlight and, on a whim, I applied.
Using their platform to spotlight black owned businesses was their response to the recent uprisings, racial injustice, and general obstacles to opportunities in the Black Community. Now, you may not know this about me but I apply to everything! While I generally check if I am qualified; I can make no promises that I will not apply for a grant, residency, award or contest even if I am completely unqualified for it on paper.
As a matter of fact, most of the traditional jobs I have landed were “out of my league” on paper. You just never know! Most people DON’T apply; they talk themselves out of even the opportunities that they ARE qualified for, so… I have trained myself to STOP AND APPLY as soon as I see an opportunity.
It has generally worked out in my favor. Do I land every deal, grant or residency? No; but I would’ve definitely missed opportunities had I never applied to the dozens of applications that have crossed my email inbox. So I “say all that to say” that I made sure to apply to this QVC/HSN opportunity even though I never thought I would get it.
I wish I could say that I applied with confidence...
I was chatting with a high school friend recently about being in business as an artist. She, too, has ventured out of her comfort zone; painting and selling. She asked me, “When did you stop being scared and nervous?”
My jaw dropped. “I’m scared RIGHT NOW!!,” was my response. She was shocked. She said that I look like I am taking on the world with no problem. How funny is that?!, I thought to myself. See, truth be told... I get a knot in my stomach every time.
Every time I send a design for review, every time I submit an application, every time I post. Is it going to be good enough? Will I look stupid? Will anyone care to read or look at it? Why would anyone want to listen or hear from (little ol’) me? … my thoughts run the gamut… but I apply, I post and I put myself out there anyway (most of the time… that little monster does win sometimes).
Back to my dining room table…
I reviewed the QVC/HSN application question by question doing my best to reflect Custom Arts Studio’s culture, Core Values and inspirations. They asked about our involvement in the community, what inspires us and about our product line. I completed the application because I told myself I would, but I didn’t feel very strongly about my chances of being selected.
Companies all across the country would be applying for this same opportunity. Here I am sitting at my dining room table typing my puny answers into these boxes. I felt small. Not good enough. Not successful enough. But I kept going. It may just be my super power… the tenacity and wherewithal to JUST DO IT ANYWAY. I hit Submit and forgot about it.
Life Goes On, A New Normal
Much like the rest of the country, COVID-19 had ravaged my family’s summer. My two teens were all geared up to start new chapters: their first year in high school and first year in college college. I thought the most stressful events would be my son’s going away party for college and clothes shopping for my daughter’s freshman year of high school (the angst!) but instead we were navigating the daily updates about how the fall would roll out.
At the same time, I was trying to figure out how to keep the business afloat while in-person events, fairs and festivals had been cancelled through February 2021. One of my commitments was to apply to every opportunity I heard about and I had honestly applied to so many different applications that, even with my list of dates, grant amounts and response dates, I couldn’t keep up.
So, there I was, likely exhausted, sitting at my dining table piddling away at an email or two when my phone rings… Thank God for caller ID,...“Minnesota?!,” my eyes scrunch up. OK, it wasn’t actually Minnesota but it wasn’t anywhere near Philly.
I answered hesitantly working to cover up my disdain for what will most likely turn out to be a scam recording telling me that my electric company is sorry that they overcharged me… but it wasn’t. It was Qurate Group calling to share the good news; Custom Arts Studio was selected as one of 20 small businesses to be spotlighted on QVC and The Home Shopping Network in the fall of 2020!
The air was literally sucked out of my lungs. What?! I tried to keep it cool. “How exciting!,” I replied while opening my Notes program to capture as much as my racing brain could gather.
When I hung up the phone, I turned to my two teens (who have NO idea what QVC and HSN are) and said “OMG!” I slouched like jelly into the back of the chair and let out a deep breath. I was excited, nervous, in shock and disbelief, and fired up all at the same time!
Internally, I was getting out of my own way. I was starting to see myself through a different lens. I started to experience a different level of willingness to win.
For example, The Qurate Retail Group needed headshots for promotional purposes on their website. I HATE taking photos (like, really) but I promptly reached out to Candlelight 215 Photography and booked a shoot with make-up having not worn make-up in years.
Over the following weeks, I booked a video shoot, recorded video on my own, posted promotional videos and photos proudly. My shell was cracking. My passions were shining through. I was growing.
You could not have convinced me just 4 weeks earlier that I would have been selected to be spotlighted on two major networks with viewers all across the country. You definitely could not have paid me to believe that I would willingly get in front of the camera, awkwardness and all, and take on sharing about my company and this amazing opportunity,... but I did. I did it when my desire for the next level was greater than my fear; when my goals were bigger than my fear.
Sometimes it seems we are stagnant because our goals are too small; they don’t call us forth or need much from us. There seems to be a “sweet spot” where a goal or desire is just the right amount of a stretch while still being attainable that creates the fire necessary to grow.
Too extreme and our internal need for comfort and safety can shut it down. Too simple and easy, the lack of challenge and feeling of accomplishment makes it a bore. It is my hope that you find your own “sweet spot” and watch the magic happen!
Oh, and here is one of the photos from the photoshoot... what do ya think?
Stay tuned to hear about the ON AIR EXPERIENCE!
BEHIND THE BRUSH